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Healthy Eating

3 worst breakfast habits for high blood pressure

To learn more about what a healthy blood pressure diet consists of, we talked with some dietitians about the worst breakfast habits you’ll want to avoid.

Having high blood pressure is an increasingly common problem in the United States. This is often caused by genetics, other illnesses, poor diet, or a more sedentary lifestyle. But while high blood pressure can lead to more severe issues if it’s untreated, there are many ways to manage and lower your blood pressure levels.

One of the ways people can manage their high blood pressure is through their diet. The CDC recommends eating a “healthy” diet with low sodium and low alcohol consumption, but what about everything in between? To learn more about what a healthy blood pressure diet consists of, we talked with some dietitians about the worst breakfast habits you’ll want to avoid.

1. Consuming salty foods

Certain popular breakfast items can come loaded with sodium without us even realizing it. Unfortunately, many dietitians warn that an increase in sodium can contribute to higher blood pressure. In fact, a report published in Nutrients states that reducing your sodium intake can not only reduce your risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) but can also reduce your risk of death from cardiovascular diseases.

3 worst breakfast habits for high blood pressure

“Many breakfast sausages and some frozen breakfast sandwiches are high in sodium, which can contribute to high blood pressure when consumed in large amounts over time. If you are grabbing one of these foods, it’s important to pair it with something low in sodium like fruit or a whole grain like oats,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and member of our expert medical board.

2. Skipping on fruits and veggies

One habit that many of us may not realize is harmful is not getting enough fruits and vegetables in the morning. According to The Cleveland Clinic, it is recommended that adults trying to lower their blood pressure get between 5 and 9 servings of fruits and vegetables in a day. If you’re not getting a serving or two at breakfast, this goal can be difficult to attain.

“Fruits and vegetables are naturally sodium-free (regular intakes of high sodium foods can contribute to high blood pressure over time) and many of them contain potassium, which can help lower high blood pressure in some people. Veggies may seem weird at breakfast, but you can scramble them into eggs or blend spinach or kale into a smoothie to amp up your morning intake of nutrients,” says Goodson.

3. Eating too much sugar

3 worst breakfast habits for high blood pressure

Consuming too much added sugar can contribute to many different health complications, and research shows that increased sugar intake can also lead to increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

“Sugar and processed foods are highly inflammatory and increase blood sugars and the insulin response as well as the inflammatory response in your body. Inflammation can increase blood pressure as well,” says Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD a registered dietitian and author of Recipe for Survival. To understand what other foods to skip out on during your morning meal, don’t miss The Worst Breakfast Foods for Inflammation, Says Dietitian.

4 best breakfast habits for high blood pressure

Eating fresh fruits and other whole foods is your dietary prescription for beating hypertension.

Pour a cup of tea

When your blood vessels narrow, technically called vasoconstriction, blood flow is reduced and blood pressure rises. You can counter that with a cup of tea. Research suggests that drinking lots of tea can help your blood vessels become more flexible so blood flows more easily, leading to lower blood pressure and a healthier heart. The active ingredients in tea are polyphenols. These plant compounds act as antioxidants in the body, reducing inflammation and boosting the activity of nitric oxide in the lining of the blood vessels. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator that works on the cells of the endothelium, causing blood vessels to widen, improving blood flow, and lowering blood pressure, according to a report in the journal Nutrients.

What about coffee? Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, so caffeinated coffee can raise blood pressure. Some studies have shown that coffee consumption raises blood pressure temporarily while others suggest caffeine’s impact may be negated by other antioxidant compounds in coffee that may protect blood vessels in the same way tea’s polyphenols do.

Eat a grapefruit

You’ve heard that eating half a grapefruit before meals can help you lose weight, but did you know that habit can help your heart? “The best food to temper blood pressure to enjoy at breakfast is citrus like oranges, grapefruit, lemons and other citrus options,” says medical review board member and registered dietitian Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD, co-founder of Appetite for Health. Or drink a small glass of 100% orange juice. “Citrus is rich in potassium which helps lower blood pressure and citrus is sodium-free,” she says. “Also, there are bioactive compounds in citrus that help improve heart health.”

Eat yogurt

4 best breakfast habits for high blood pressure

“Milk and other dairy products like yogurt are rich in potassium and other nutrients that help lower blood pressure,” says Upton. Some of those other nutrients include calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B-12, and riboflavin. While Upton recommends low-fat milk and yogurt, whole milk products may have a similar effect on blood pressure. One study in a 2019 edition of the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care found that having at least 2 servings daily of any dairy product was associated with an 11 to 12% lower risk of having both diabetes and high blood pressure. Higher intake of dairy foods, especially whole-fat dairy, was associated with a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome and with a lower risk of developing hypertension and diabetes, the researchers found.

Add DASH-approved foods to your breakfast

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It’s an effective healthy eating plan specifically designed for people who have high blood pressure or want to avoid it and it works, says medical review board member Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, a registered dietitian and author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook. The DASH Diet focuses on whole foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats from fish, nuts, seeds, and monounsaturated oils. Studies indicate that the eating plan can lower blood pressure in as few as two weeks. While DASH limits foods high in sodium and saturated fats, the diet’s blood pressure-lowering power may be due to the fact that DASH foods are high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium—all key minerals that regulate blood pressure.

Some DASH foods to add to your breakfast include apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, spinach, and eggs.

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